Tucked away in a small meeting room, away from the hulking, brightly lit booths of Samsung, Huawei and LG, sits little old Bragi. But the startup that arguably gave birth to the smart wireless earbud, spawning others like Apple's AirPods, has big news to share.
It's not a new Dash, but this news does have the potential to go way beyond what it is able to deliver with its latest smart earbuds, the Dash Pro. This is, after all, a company that considers itself to be more than just a maker of feature-rich hearables.
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Bragi has bigger ambitions to show how it can power other wearables too. For the first time, we will see those Bragi smarts featured inside devices that lie away from the ear. Bragi's new nanoAI platform aims to make it easier and more affordable for companies who build wearables, medical devices and even smart home devices to make their hardware smarter and more intelligent.
Smart running shoes, golf gear and more
"We think we have a component that can help contextual computing really break through," Bragi's executive vice president Darko Dragicevic tells Wareable. "We are showcasing that computing on the Dash, so you don't need a smartphone or talk to your assistant to activate it. That is how computing should be."
Dragicevic shows us a video to illustrate some of the ways its nanoAI platform could be embraced and put to good use. There's a drill that is able to learn what it's like to drill through certain materials. There's a pair of smart running shoes that track activity, and even a simple device that can control smart home lights or turn on your music. Dragicevic believes it could have great industrial use cases as well, and there's scope to put it inside of bikes and sports garments.
"This is going to be more like a coin-sized sensor tech," he explains. "Our focus is on the contextual and creating this compressed AI that could live in something like a smart sole. Take golf for instance. A golf swing is quite a complex thing. If you had sensors in shoes, clubs and other parts of the body that creates a high mesh network that enhances the quality of understanding just what is happening in a stroke that results in better analytics."
Bragi is already talking to companies who make cycling bikes and sports gear about its nanoAI software. It's had discussions with glasses manufacturers as well and feels it can be taken into many directions, and now it's about bringing some of the projects to life. The first goal is finding partners to create reference projects to showcase the technology. The aim is to have a few of the projects ready within the year. As far as consumers being able to get hold of these Bragi-powered devices, it sounds like we'll have to wait until 2019.
Bragi is far from done with the Dash
While this is the first indication that Bragi is prepared to bring the smarts to other parts of the body, it is in no way giving up on the device it's become known for. Since developing the first iteration of the Dash three years ago, we've seen The Headphone and the Dash Pro, the natural successor to the Dash.
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"We are looking at introducing a new walkie talkie feature. So, for instance, if you are out mountain biking with friends you'll only need to shake your head to talk to everybody so you can keep your eyes focused. We do have some new things to talk about later in the year that may revolve around music and quality as well, but I can't say much more than that just yet. The Dash is alive and continues to grow. We know we are not done and we are already working on the next iterations."
Dragicevic admits that while the team was immensely proud of the first Dash, at the start it was far from perfect. He feels that with a steady stream of firmware updates and the arrival of the Pro, adjustments have been made to make it a more polished and sophisticated device. "I don't see anything in the market that can match what the Pro can do," he tells us. "We are looking to improve things still. We may look at the interface side of things and we are looking at how we can introduce OTA updates as well."
One of the new features we saw on the Dash Pro was real-time translation. Something that we've since seen Google embrace with its Pixel Buds, while Waverly Labs' Pilot translation buds are now finally starting to ship to backers after multiple delays. Dragicevic says the reception for this feature has been on the whole good, but is also something that can get better.
"Translation like we offer on the Dash Pro can help reduce language barriers," he tells us. "It may not have the abilities to recreate having deep meaningful conversations about Nietzsche or Aristotle, but to order food or to get around with a taxi driver, that's what it's designed for. We actually had enquiries for huge national sports events who wanted to equip all of their staff with the Pro. We've had trials with agencies who bring hundreds and thousands of athletes into other continents and they need something to integrate them from a language point of view."
A wearable tech shift
Along with spreading the nanoAI love and working on new iterations of the Dash, Bragi is planning to keep itself busy with the Bragi Ears Project it demoed to us earlier in the year, and its reference design platform, which might see announcements of new hearables in development that simply may not carry the Bragi name.
The company is keeping busy – and feels the wearable tech industry as a whole will be busy as it steps into the next important phase.
"I feel a shift in quality for wearables is coming up," Dragicevic tells us. "I saw that Fitbit is having a hard time with its standard wearables but the Apple smartwatch is picking up a lot. From sensor and supplier perspective as well, there is much more to expect.
"It's time to raise the quality levels of what wearables are capable of. People now want the tech to do the work and digest data into formats they can use. That's the next thing wearables need to do. With contextual computing like we are doing, things will simply happen without bothering you."
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